Don't get us wrong -- we love braises and soups and peasant food, in much the same way that we love our favorite sweaters and softest scarves. How could you not look tenderly upon something that's kept you warm and cozy for so long?
Now that it's March, though, that routine of long, slow cooking feels like an admission of defeat. If braising is winter's M.O. and grilling is summer's, then gently coddling our dinner in a bath of infused oil is perfect for these days when there's still a nip lingering in the air. So until the weather gives us springtime, we'll bring springtime to our kitchens -- in sunny chartreuse colors, crisp vegetables, delicate fish, and a punchy salad dressing to rouse our taste buds from hibernation.
4 tilapia filets, about 1/4 pound each
3 sprigs thyme
2 medium lemons
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons drained capers, finely chopped
2 cups olive oil, plus more for the dressing
1 head of butter lettuce
We assume you have garlic, kosher and flaky sea salts, Dijon mustard, and superfine sugar. If not, add those to your grocery list!
1. Heat the oven to 275° F. Arrange the fish in a single layer in a shallow baking dish, overlapping the thinner areas of the filets slightly to create a uniform thickness for even cooking.
2. Pour enough olive oil into the dish to just cover the fish (about 2 cups). You'll need slightly more or less oil depending on the size of your dish (use a smaller dish that just fits the fish in a single layer to minimize the amount of oil you need).
3. Add the thyme and garlic to the oil, tucking them under the surface, and sprinkle the salt evenly over the oil and the fish.
4. Bake for about 20 minutes, until just cooked through. Meanwhile, for the salad dressing, segment the lemons over a bowl to catch the juices (see the recipe for further instructions). Set aside.
5. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into a separate bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and stir well.
6. Add the lemon segments and toss gently to coat them without breaking them up.
7. Dress the greens and divide them onto four plates; then, when the fish is finished cooking, gently lift the filets out of the dish, transfer them onto the plates, and drizzle some of the oil over each one. Serve immediately.
Photos by James Ransom